Eviction Law in Washington State

In response to COVID-19, the City of Burien is providing the following non-legal advice to the Burien community. This information is not meant to the absolute authority on eviction law in Washington and does not replace speaking with an attorney or resources listed at Residential Landlord-Tenant Resources | Washington State or Information for Renters - City of Burien (burienwa.gov). In addition, since this information is not exhaustive, you should read the provisions of interest to you in full through the links provided in this summary or by a search at Proclamations | Governor Jay Inslee (wa.gov) and Bill Action | Governor Jay Inslee (wa.gov)

The Washington State Legislature adopted E2SSB 5160 on April 20, 2021, and the Governor (partially) signed on it April 22, 2021. E2SSB 5160 contains a variety of new protections for tenants and landlords in the state of Washington. The legislature wrote that “it is the intent of the legislature with this act to increase tenant protections during the public health emergency, provide legal representation for qualifying tenants in eviction cases, establish an eviction resolution pilot program to address nonpayment of rent eviction cases before any court filing, and ensure tenants and landlords have adequate opportunities to access state and local rental assistance programs to reimburse landlords for unpaid rent and preserve tenancies.

Governor Inslee issued proclamation 21-09.01 to bridge the operational gap between the eviction moratorium enacted by prior proclamations and the protections and programs subsequently enacted by the Legislature, and to reduce uncertainty as the state implements post-COVID-19 long-term housing recovery strategies contained in legislative enactments such as E2SSB 5160. To that end, any ambiguities contained in this proclamation shall be resolved by applying the processes, timelines, and definitions established in E2SSB 5160 (see summaries below).

Section 3 of E2SSB 5160 creates several tenant protections – a prohibition on certain late fees, rent from March 1, 2020 until the end of the eviction moratorium, reporting non-payment or an unlawful detainer action during the same period to prospective landlords, among other things. Violation of any of those protections could result in the landlord or prospective landlord being liable for up to 2.5 times the monthly rent for the subject unit and court costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees. These monies are to be paid to the tenant bringing the action.

Among other things, Section 4 of E2SSB 5160 states that repayment plans related to accrued unpaid rent from March 1, 2020 until six months after the expiration of the eviction moratorium must “not exceed monthly payments equal to one-third of the monthly rental charges during the period of accrued debt.”  You should discuss with an attorney, eviction resource, or advocate whether the “reasonable schedule for repayment” could be less than one-third of the monthly rental charges. If the tenant fails to accept repayment plan terms within 14 days of the offer, the landlord may proceed with an unlawful detainer action (“eviction”) under RCW 59.12.030(3). Related to this is ESHB 1236, that requires “cause” before a landlord may evict a tenant. Section 4 states that repayment plan requirements in some detail.

Sections 5 and 6 of E2SSB 5160 explains the landlord mitigation program. Generally, landlords may be reimbursed for improvements required to pass inspections as noted in 59.18.255(1)(a), for damages as reflected in a judgment, and reimbursements for damages and for unpaid rent and utilities.

Section 7 of E2SSB 5160 creates the Eviction Resolution Pilot Program. Of significance to landlords and tenants, “The eviction resolution pilot program must be used to facilitate the resolution of nonpayment of rent cases between a landlord and tenant before the landlord files an unlawful detainer action.” Section 7 sets forth the prerequisites in detail for appropriate notice from the landlords to tenants and the superior courts facilitation of the program. Only after sufficiently participating in this program may a landlord seek the eviction of a tenant for nonpayment of rent.

Section 8 of E2SSB 5160 creates the right to legal counsel for indigent tenants in an unlawful detainer proceeding. Section 8 defines the term “indigent,” makes the Office of Civil Legal Aid responsible for implementing section 8 and hiring attorneys as explained in Section 9, and sets a priority to legal representation.

The majority of the remaining sections of E2SSB 5160 largely address notice, the form of notice (Sec. 10) that now contains resources for rent payment assistance at the Attorney General’s website, notice of a right to legal counsel, notice to the dispute resolution center (Sec. 10); the form of a summons that now contains notice of a right to counsel and other resources (Sec. 11), the manner of serving notice (Sec. 14), and more explicit prohibitions on agreements inconsistent with RCW Chapter 59.18 (Sec. 15).

ESHB 1236, Section 2(1) prohibits the eviction of a tenant, the refusal to continue a tenancy, the end of a periodic tenancy except as provided in Section 2(2).

ESHB 1236, Section 2(2) sets forth the reasons that may constitute cause to evict under Section 2(1). Anyone interested or needing to know what the reasons are should not rely on the abbreviated summary immediately below, it is not legal advice, but should look at Section 2(2) and consult with an attorney. Those “cause” reasons include when the tenant continues possession after:

  1. Being in default
  2. Committing a substantial breach of a material subsidized housing requirement
  3. Being notified that tenant has committed or permitted waste, a nuisance, or unlawful activity
  4. Being notified of the owner’s intent to occupy or have the owner’s family occupy the unit
  5. Being given 90 days’ notice that the owner has elected to sell as a single-family residence
  6. Being notified that premises will be demolished, substantially rehabilitated, or its use changed
  7. Being notified that the owner will convert the property to a condominium or cooperative
  8. Being notified that the property has been certified or condemned as uninhabitable
  9. Being notified that the owner intends to stop sharing the dwelling unit with the tenant
  10. Being given at least 30 days’ notice to vacate transitional housing
  11. Refusing to sign a proposed new rental agreement in some situations
  12. Receiving a notice to vacate after intentional, knowing, and material application misrepresentations or omissions
  13. Being informed of other good cause to terminate the lease early
  14. Being given notice to vacate after committing 4 or more violations specified in (n)
  15. Being notified that of a failure to disclose or register as a sex offender
  16. Being notified that the tenant has made unwanted sexual advances or sexual harassment

Again, it is important for any who has read any portion of this summary to remember that there is no attorney-client relationship between Burien and anyone who might read this summary. If you have questions or concerns, Burien cannot give you legal advice. If you have questions or concerns you should read the applicable laws carefully and consult with an attorney.

Updated October 4, 2021